Category: CIS News


UA’s PRSSA named national Star Chapter for contributions to the community

By Caleb Aguayo

Tuscaloosa, Ala.The University of Alabama’s (UA) chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) received a Star Chapter Award from national PRSSA. UA was one of 38 schools chosen for the award.

The UA PRSSA chapter earned the distinction for its contributions to Tuscaloosa, the University, national PRSSA and for having at least one professional client. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation selected the PRSSA’s award recipients that met eight out of 11 possible contributions.

After completing various required activities, the student organization wrote an application outlining its work. The chapter completed and applied for the following eight categories during the 2022-2023 academic year: 

  • A high school outreach session.
  • Building relationships with a sponsoring PRSA chapter.
  • Attention to ethics.
  • An application for a national chapter award.
  • A community service project.
  • Attendance to at least one PRSSA conference.
  • Positive media exposure for the chapter.
  • A pro bono project for a client.

Given annually, the Star Chapter Award covers each academic year. UA’s PRSSA chapter has earned the award seven times: 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Current UA PRSSA president Katie Croft said, “A Star Chapter designation means that we have gone above and beyond for our members. We have not only provided them a space where they can learn and network, but somewhere they are encouraged and pushed forward. I believe that other schools will see our designation as a Star chapter and expect more from our students than the standard. This award sets UA apart; while many colleges and universities have a PRSSA chapter, not all have a Star PRSSA chapter. The University and its faculty and staff have encouraged us students to push ourselves and expect more of ourselves, and that has translated into our extracurriculars.”

All Star Chapters will be recognized at the international ICON PRSA/PRSSA conference, scheduled for October in Nashville, Tennessee. They may receive other chapter-level honors there, as well.

UA’s PRSSA applied for six awards this year, including Outstanding Chapter, Chapter Firm, Community Service, University Service, Chapter Diversity and Chapter Website.

The organization’s faculty adviser, Tracy Sims, said, “It’s wonderful to see our chapter’s commitment to providing a quality experience for our members recognized in this way. It challenges our board members to seek opportunities to further the public relations industry and the professional development of all our members through community service, ethical leadership and relationship building.

Sims is a senior instructor in UA’s Department of Advertising & Public Relations (A+PR), where she also serves as an undergraduate program coordinator and a co-faculty adviser for Capstone Agency. Croft is an A+PR student and a member of Capstone Agency.

Dr. Hayes receiving the award

A+PR professors honored in France for Article of the Year award

By Caleb Aguayo

Dr. Hayes receiving the award from journal editor Dr. Charles Taylor.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.Two professors in the Department of Advertising & Public Relations (A+PR), Drs. Steven Holiday and Jameson Hayes, were recognized this summer for their research in corporate responsibility and strategic planning. In June, the two attended the International Conference on Research in Advertising (ICORIA) in Bordeaux, France,  where they won the gala’s “Article of the Year.”

Published as part of the top-ranked International Journal of Advertising, their article, “Corporate social responsibility & the advertising strategic planning process: a literature review and research agenda,” re-imagines current research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in advertising and provides a research agenda to continue the study in the future.

Corporate social responsibility is the idea that a business must be responsible to, and a positive influence for, the society around it, integrating concerns in public conversation into the business’s operations. It is currently understudied from the advertising perspective, according to Hayes, as most of the research centers around public relations or marketing. But due to pressure from young consumers, brands and companies are beginning to focus their advertising plans around CSR principles to “win points.” Hayes said that research in CSR initiatives will explore how these companies promote their efforts and determine how they can contribute to social causes without taking advantage of the causes for commercial gain.

“This summer, Bud Light and Target were both significantly damaged by miscalculations in CSR initiatives, leading to substantial revenue loss,” said Hayes. “Backlash over LGBTQ+ marketing resulted in a 27 percent year-over-year stock drop for Target. Meanwhile, Bud Light’s Dylan Mulvaney sponsorship cost Anheuser-Busch $395 million in revenue in North America, forcing the company to sell off several of their brands to compensate. So, now the decision-making process has become more complex for advertisers. This is why research on advertising CSR is becoming more and more needed.”

The professors’ study on CSR received “Article of the Year” due to its quality and number of downloads and citations. All articles submitted to the journal in 2022 were considered for this year’s award.

“This project was an opportunity to be a leader in the discipline, helping expand its scope and give structure to a ‘hot’ topic of conversation within the research community,” said Hayes. He added that he and Holiday hope that their article directs the conversation to more specific, advertising-related aspects of the subject.

In addition, Holiday and co-author Dr. Nancy Brinson also received an “Article of the Year” nomination for another study. Their research was a runner-up for the American Academy of Advertising.

Hayes’ other recognitions include a Best Paper award from ICORIA in 2022, a 2021 Feature Article for the Journal of Interactive Marketing, runner-up for Article of the Year in 2014 by the Journal of Advertising and the Broadcast Education Association’s Best Debut Paper award from 2010.

Holiday is an assistant professor in A+PR at The University of Alabama. Hayes is an associate professor in A+PR, where he also serves as the PhD program lead.

Country Music Association

C&IS students selected for the Country Music Association’s first DEI fellowship

By Jacob Crawford  

Tuscaloosa, Ala. – Three students studying public relations at the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS) were among the first to participate in the Country Music Association’s (CMA) inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship program this summer. The eight-week fellowship is a partnership between The University of Alabama (UA), Belmont University and the University of Tennessee that provides six undergraduate students with hands-on experience learning public relations with country music industry leaders.  

Throughout the summer, C&IS students Olivia Alacorn, Deja Evans and Brianna Byrd immersed themselves in the industry, joining CMA’s communications team in the weeks leading into its 50th anniversary celebration of CMA Fest, the longest-running country music festival in the world. They received a first-hand look at how the event comes together, focusing on communication and public relations efforts related to media relations, talent relations, credentialling, digital and social media, communication planning and logistical production planning. 

“Working the CMA Fest was one of the highlights of my summer,” said Byrd. “I had the opportunity to do everything from shadowing publicists to working with talent escorts. This helped me understand all the work, tenacity and passion that’s needed to help an event and industry thrive. It was an absolute masterclass.” 

Dr. Kenon Brown, professor in C&IS’s Advertising & Public Relations program, was critical to the program’s success. Brown has spent the last two years working with CMA to develop the fellowship program, secure support and recruit partners. 

“Being able to work alongside the Country Music Association’s incredibly talented staff has been the highlight of my last two years,” said Brown. “Seeing our efforts come together to give these six students these important opportunities to learn about the country music industry has been a joy to watch. Being part of an initiative that will ultimately impact the level of diversity in the music industry is a fulfilling task, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for these amazing students.” 

Alongside Brown, the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations was key in helping launch the fellowship this year. Janet Walker and Dr. Stephen Rush served as the faculty representatives for UA and Belmont University, respectively, and recruited students to apply for the program. CMA’s Mia McNeal, senior director of industry relations and inclusion, and Catharine McNelly, vice president of communications, worked to construct a valuable opportunity for students and provide industry exposure and education for them.  

“By engaging the students in a variety of public relations roles, CMA is helping students discover which roles they enjoy within the public relations industry and giving them opportunities to hone their skills. As an educator, these are exactly the kinds of learning opportunities I get excited to provide our students,” said Walker. 

In addition to working at CMA Fest, the fellowship matched students with industry mentors and placed them in entertainment-industry summer internships, giving them first-hand experience working in public relations in Nashville. Evans spent the summer working as an emerging talent associate for Warner Music Nashville, Byrd was a media marketing intern at Universal Music Group, and Alarcon worked with Sony Music Nashville as a media intern.  

“For us, we know we only have these students with us for roughly 10 weeks. It’s important that within that time, we provide a full glimpse into as many areas as possible, to give these students a realistic view of what a career in this industry might look like,” said McNelly. 

The fellowship program also brought all six fellows together throughout the summer for weekly professional development training sessions on topics like personal branding, television production, crisis management, and the importance of diversity and inclusion.  

“The CMA D&I Fellowship program has been one of the most fulfilling and fruitful experiences I have ever had,” said Alcorn. “To be surrounded by such kind and influential people in the industry who truly wanted to assist us in our future careers was an encouragement to us all.” 

As the premier trade association representing the country music genre, CMA places a high priority on supporting the professional development of individuals within the music industry. While they have a number of programs that cater to individuals who already have their foot in the door, they also focus significant efforts on developing a pipeline of diverse talent at an entry level. In addition to the CMA EDU collegiate program and the student tier of CMA membership, CMA launched its inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship this summer to further create pipeline opportunities for students who might not realize the career possibilities that exist within the industry. 

“I think one of the things that has been most rewarding is seeing the personal growth within each student,” said McNelly. “For some students, this experience was the first time they had worked in a professional office setting. For others, the experience opened their eyes to new and exciting areas they want to focus on as they begin their job searches soon. As hosts of a program like this, our greatest win is when we can create a single relationship with a young person who will one day be a part of this industry in some capacity. Whether that’s a year down the road, three years, or five years, the relationships that we have formed throughout this fellowship will certainly impact our industry into the future.” 

The Cecil Hurt Support Fund for Excellence in Sports Media Reaches Full Endowment

By C&IS 

The Cecil Hurt Support Fund for Excellence in Sports Media is now fully endowed, with the first recipient set to be named by the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS) in Spring 2024. The award honors the life and legacy of sportswriter Cecil Hurt, who worked for The Tuscaloosa News for almost 40 years before his death in 2021 

“The fund was a labor of love,” said Chad Mize, a long-time friend of Hurt who spearheaded the award’s endowment. “So many people loved and miss Cecil’s wit and warmth, so this endowment is a great way to extend his impact for generations to come.”  

Mize also said that while the fund has reached the endowment level, he hopes contributions will continue to grow the funds to support more students studying sports media.   

“[Hurt] was the most important and influential journalist who has ever covered The University of Alabama,” said Paul Finebaum, American sportswriter and C&IS Hall of Fame Award recipient. “He was also the best. He was an institution and beloved by all.” 

Born in Tuscaloosa, Hurt graduated from UA in 1981 with a degree in English and a minor in psychology.  

“C&IS is proud to have among our graduates many prominent personalities in sports media. The Cecil Hurt Support Fund recognizes the best of next generation sports communication professionals among our current students,” said Dr. Brian Butler, C&IS dean. 

Dr. Andrew Billings, executive director of the Alabama Program in Sports Communication, added that the award is a fitting tribute because so many students and early career sports journalists recall Hurt seeking them out in a crowded room to mentor them in the early stages of their careers. 

While Hurt began his journalism career as a sportswriter, he later became the newspaper’s sports editor and columnist. Fans celebrated his coverage of Crimson Tide football, with Tuscaloosa News editor Ken Roberts calling him the only legend he had ever known.  

“For years, a common theme at UA athletic events had been for others to ponder, ‘What would Cecil say?’” said Mize. 

When asked to imagine Hurt’s response to the support fund, Mize said, “It would probably involve a self-deprecating joke, then a smile. A satisfied smile from a job well done.”  

If you would like to support the Cecil Hurt Endowed Support Fund for Excellence in Sports Media, visit the UA Giving page.

WVUA 23 sales team

WVUA 23 partners with NOAA to promote emergency flood awareness

By Leah Myers and Jacob Crawford 

WVUA 23 sales team

Tuscaloosa, Ala.— WVUA 23 has created a public service campaign that will be seen across the country, thanks to a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS). The national campaign will promote NOAA’s flood inundation mapping (FIM) system, which can help save lives during flood events. 

The National Water Center, located on The University of Alabama’s (UA) campus, originally partnered with WVUA 23 for news coverage on FIM development, but as conversations evolved, WVUA 23’s general sales manager Kassandra Horton realized the studio could help the Water Center deliver their message to a wider audience. As a result, the studio worked with them to build a complete marketing campaign to help NOAA spread awareness. 

“In partnering with NOAA’s FIM campaign, we are helping drive meaningful impact within the community, especially those in underserved areas,” said Horton. “With this information, we are letting the public know where to go and what to do in the event of a severe weather situation by utilizing our digital platforms.”  

According to NOAA’s website, 61 people died in the U.S. from floods in the previous five years. As of July, 22 people have died from floods this year alone, highlighting the need for this campaign. FIM is designed to help people be more aware of flood-prone areas, especially during severe weather. The technology will inform people across the country of what to do in a water emergency and create public awareness of flood areas.  

The first phase of WVUA 23’s public service campaign will launch in October and cover 10 percent of the United States, including Texas, Louisiana, New York and Pennsylvania. The other three phases will begin shortly thereafter and conclude in the summer of 2026. 

“As a college, we have so much to offer this campus and our community,” said Amy Martin, director of creative services and programming at WVUA 23. “Each department in C&IS involved in the project will play a critical role in its success throughout its four-year lifespan.” 

WVUA 23 is partnering with the Institute for Communication and Information Research to test messaging and identify audiences for each region of the country. Capstone Agency, C&IS’s student-led advertising and public relations firm, will develop campaigns for each audience, and the Center for Public Television will provide video production services. WVUA 23 will design graphics and implement the digital campaign, as well as provide local news coverage about the technology. 

 NOAA works on a wide range of scientific support, from daily weather forecasts and severe storm warnings to coastal restoration and climate monitoring. 

WVUA 23 is a local news station and full-service marketing agency owned by UA, providing essential news, weather and sports coverage, as well as creative services and advertising for West Alabama.  

C&IS appoints new leaders ahead of the Fall 2023 semester

By Leah Myers 

Tuscaloosa, Ala. —The College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS) has promoted and hired several faculty to lead the college. These appointed leaders have taken on new positions ahead of the Fall 2023 semester, settling into their roles before students arrive.  

“The team has extensive experience as researchers, educators, administrators, and leaders,” said Dr. Brian Butler, dean of C&IS. “With their energy, expertise, and attention, the college is well positioned to grow and enhance our reputation as national leaders in communication and information sciences.” 

 With these changes, C&IS aims to solidify its stance as a research-driven leader in communication and information studies.  

Unit Heads

Dr. Michael Bruce is the chair of the Department of Journalism and Creative Media. 

Dr. Darrin Griffin is the chair of the Department of Communication Studies. 

Dr. Brooke W. McKeever is the chair of the Department of Advertising & Public Relations. 

Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo is the director of the School of Library and Information Studies. 

Associate Deans

Dr. Andrew Billings is the associate dean for Faculty. 

Dr. Rebecca Britt is the associate dean for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. 

Dr. Bill Evans is the associate dean for Graduate Studies. 

Dr. J. Suzanne Horsley is the associate dean for Communication & Advancement. 

Dr. Steven Yates is the associate dean for Undergraduate Studies. 

Leaders of College Initiatives

Dr. Kenon A. Brown is the director of the Institute for Communication and Information Research. 

Dr. Jameson Hayes is the Ph.D. Program lead. 

C&IS is among the top 10 largest and most comprehensive programs in the United States, ranking among the best schools of its kind in the world. A comprehensive, multidisciplinary division, the college devotes itself to teaching, research and service at the highest level. 

C&IS faculty join national cohort supporting public engagement in research

By Leah Myers

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The University of Alabama (UA) will be participating in The Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society’s (ARIS) Program to Enhance Organizational Research Impact Capacity (ORIC), strengthening the university’s position as a national research leader.

The ORIC is funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF), who developed the program to help institutions grow their capacity for facilitating broader research impacts. “Broader impacts” (BI) refers to the ways in which research benefits society and is key for evaluating NSF proposals and funded projects.

“The College of Communication & Information Sciences supports authentic, reciprocal and meaningful impact activities informed by effective and ethical public engagement,” said Dr. Matthew VanDyke, faculty lead of the Alabama Science Communication Initiative and associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations (A+PR). “[These activities] add to a better science communication ecosystem and propel The University of Alabama’s multidisciplinary research efforts, creating meaningful social impacts.”

Understanding broader impacts is important because it allows institutions to improve STEM education and educator development at all levels; develop a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce and increase partnerships between academia and industry.

This year’s ORIC cohort consists of seven institutions, with each cohort training period lasting one year. During that year, BI professionals participate in an intensive training series designed and led by ARIS, followed by nine additional months of application and practice, which are overseen and mentored by the ARIS team. Joining the cohort positions UA to receive resources, mentoring and community-building, as well as an intensive training and professional development series on topics such as developing their institution’s BI identity, evaluating BI activities, using the ARIS BI toolkit, conducting BI consultations and building effective BI partnerships.

VanDyke will join the program as UA’s BI professional, and Dr. Brian Butler, dean of C&IS, will serve as the cohort’s administrative partner. Administrative partners champion the work of BI professionals and advocate for necessary administrative changes within an institution.

Lintons Barbershop

Award-winning documentary drives support for Tuscaloosa’s Block

Tuscaloosa, Ala. – One of the most historically symbolic buildings in Tuscaloosa, “The Block” was once home to prominent Black-owned businesses at the center of the Civil Rights Movement. A video documenting the area received the 2023 Southeast EMMY in the category of Historical/Cultural—Short Form Content. The Block housed businesses such as the famed barbershop of Rev. Thomas Linton, the first Black newspaper The Alabama Citizen, Maggie’s Diner, as well as sleeping rooms for itinerant Black railroad workers.

The Linton Barbershop Project, a collaboration between The University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History and Reconciliation Foundation, along with Linton family members, Felecia Linton and attorney Sue Thompson, is working to preserve the memory of this important site for future generations. In 2022, the Linton Barbershop Project worked with The University of Alabama Center for Public Television on a documentary short featuring Dr. John D. Vickers Jr., owner of The Block until 2010.

“It’s always a great honor to win an EMMY,” said executive producer Rob Briscoe. “Our team did a fantastic job, and this award tells me that people want this story to be told. We hope this is just the beginning”

The Block was a sanctuary for foot soldiers during the Civil Rights Movement, where mass meetings were held, and Autherine Lucy found refuge during her struggle to integrate The University of Alabama. It also highlighted the roles love, resilience and joy play in Black life and the fight for racial equality.

“This was a haven for Black folks who participated in the march and was also the first time I saw that Blacks could achieve something on an economic [level],” said Vickers. “I think this is a great idea to add this legacy to the civil rights struggle and the trail that people come to Tuscaloosa to [visit.]”

The Linton Barbershop Project committee includes Dr. Elva Bradley, retired assistant to the dean in the College of Communication & Information Sciences, Dr. Jessy Ohl, associate professor of Communication Studies, Dr. Scott Bridges, co-president of the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History and Reconciliation Foundation and Rob Brisco.

In the next phases of the project, community involvement is key. “We need more stories about the barbershop and the rest of The Block in order to build momentum,” said Bridges. Those interested in supporting the project with any memories, documents or resources associated with The Block, contact Bradley (

2023 Southeastern Emmys

The Center for Public Television wins two regional Emmys

Tuscaloosa, Ala. —The University of Alabama’s Center for Public Television (CPT) won two Emmys and received six nominations during the Southeast Regional Emmy Gala in Atlanta, Ga. CPT producers Angel Caro and Will Green won for their short documentary on Mobile artist Kathleen Kirk Stoves, and Green, Caro, Rob Briscoe, and Sarina Williams, a creative media student in the College of Communication & Information Sciences, won best historical/cultural documentary for “Linton Barbershop.”

“Winning an Emmy award is a huge deal for me,” said Williams. “Being able to put such an achievement on my resume so early in my career makes me have hope for the future.”

Williams also received an Emmy nomination for her short documentary, “Circle City Chef.” She said, “Competing against professionals that have been in the industry probably longer than I have been alive was so humbling and an honor. It made me feel as if I was taking all the right steps in my career.”

Alongside CPT, The University of Alabama also won an Emmy for “Where Legends Are Made,” and Seed Creative, a Tuscaloosa video agency led by Alabama alumni, also won two Emmys.

The Regional Southeast Emmy Chapter is one of 19 chapters throughout the United States, identifying and celebrating excellent television at the local and regional level. The Southeast chapter represents professionals from all disciplines of the industry in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Asheville, N.C.

C&IS celebrates Camille Elebash

C&IS celebrates the life of Camille Elebash

Tuscaloosa, Ala.— Camille Maxwell Elebash, one of Tuscaloosa’s and The University of Alabama’s most decorated and celebrated journalists and professors, died on Thursday, June 22, 2023. She was 98 years old.  

Elebash was born in Tuscaloosa on March 31, 1925. She graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1942, received her bachelor of arts in journalism from The University of Alabama in 1946 and earned a master’s in journalism in 1958. As a college student during WWII, she wrote for The Crimson White. 

During her 44-year professional career, she held a variety of journalism jobs. In 1946, she wrote for The Tuscaloosa News as a reporter, feature writer and women’s page editor. In 1948, she began writing for The New York Times, where she remained until 1951. She then returned to Tuscaloosa to edit The University of Alabama Alumni Magazine. In 1957, she and her husband Karl founded The Graphic, a local weekly newspaper which ran until 1977. 

In 1975, she began working full-time at The University of Alabama as a professor in the Department of Advertising & Public Relations, where she proved instrumental during the department’s first year. During her tenure, she directed internships and masters’ theses, taught advertising in the Capstone Summer Honors Program and created a political communications course. She also developed an advertising sales course which gave students hands-on experience selling ads for The Crimson White. 

Elebash retired from the University in 1990 but continued to stay active in the community. She led several organizations, including the Heritage Week of the Preservation Society, United Way, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Salvation Army, Girl Scouts, American Red Cross, Mental Health Association, and the Jemison-Van de Graff mansion. She also served on the Bryce Hospital Historical Preservation Committee, which was instrumental in preserving the hospital during sales negotiations with The University of Alabama.  

Throughout her life, Elebash received numerous honors and awards, including The University of Alabama National Alumni Association Outstanding Commitment to Teaching; a silver medal from the American Advertising Federation; the Austin Kiplinger fellowship; a fellowship by Leo Burnett Advertising Agency; The Betsy Plank Outstanding Achievement award; and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Alumni Association. In 2015, Elebash was inducted into The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences’ Hall of Fame. 

A visitation will be held at noon on June 26 in Randall Hall at Christ Episcopal Church in Tuscaloosa, followed by a memorial service at 1 P.M.